I would like to give a big thank you to Kait from Life as Kait for nominating me for this award.
I was nominated on June 15th, and I am now sitting down to write this post, the night of the 23rd.
Before I opened the email, I had no idea a "blogger recognition award" was a thing. I haven't been blogging for that long, and at first I questioned whether or not I was qualified to give any advice about blogging haha.
But here I am! Thanks to Kait I am able to connect with other writers :)
So let's get into it!
How I started my blog:
my about page certainly explains a piece of it, and I refer back to the story in a lot of my posts. But I'm going to be more specific about how.
My high school social worker.
That is where it began.
I found myself in her office, a lot, and check-ins every single morning. This whole "seeking help" thing was new to me, and I had no idea what I was doing. Communication was a key ingredient in progress, and that was my main struggle. I would sit in her office just staring at the wall, trying to form words in my head that were safe enough to say aloud.
I wrote a list instead. Everything I was afraid of, everything (that I was aware of) that was contributing to my anxieties. I handed it to my school social worker and felt my body dissolve as she read the lines in front of me.
It was uncomfortable, but the two of us discovered something that day. A way for me to express myself.
She told me about how she started her own personal blog, and how she loves to write. I related to her interest, and how writing has always been a way for me to tap into my soul.
I didn't know anything about blogging, but I was willing to try it out. I built my first site, and wrote daily about my mental health journey/challenges. I had one reader; my high school social worker.
I began like most bloggers do- on WordPress, with a few readers I knew personally, and the rest who found me by my tags. I was not writing to reach anyone else, but me. It was a way for me to express and analyze some very dark, and complex thoughts that were overwhelming me. It was so private, that it even scared me to have strangers finding my words.
... but I recovered. It was a bumpy road and this blog I write now tells that story. Part of healing from my mental illnesses was moving away from the dark patterns of my old site, and writing to put the good pieces out there instead.
As my about page states at the bottom:
My site is named "Very Haley" for a reason. I have always been very clear about who I am and what makes my soul shine. If my mom saw something in a store she would say "this is very Haley!" Or a video of another person doing something silly or dancing around looking like a fool, "that's very Haley." In other words, this is me. I fall down, I get up, and this is my story. Very Haley. As real as can be.
My advice for new bloggers..
If you are nervous about where to begin, or putting yourself "out there"scares you- start small.
Build your foundation. Get some posts out of the way, and work on your message.
If you aren't sure yet, don't let it hold you back.
So many times I would hide away from the keyboard because I had no sense of direction. Just write anyway. The drive, the path, the inspiration will find you.
Focus on you, first. Blogging can get tough if you only focus on who is reading, and what they are thinking. Blog for you, first. Build the confidence. Confidence is like your own personal fuel or gasoline that helps to run your blog. Practice, leave your comfort zone on your own watch, and try new things until you feel comfortable with the direction you are going. Then you can work your readers. I had thought it was the other way around, but trust me, it is no fun to have self-doubt about your own site. This is your space.
Build your home sweet home, before rushing to call in visitors.
Do not compare yourself to others.
This is a given statement for any situation, but it is crucial with blogging because there are so many bloggers out there.
I had NO idea when I started how many bloggers there are. They are all so different; different interests, different stories, different parts of the world. Fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, wellness bloggers, personal blogs, business blogs, freelance- the list goes on.
Social media is almost scary. You will find the bloggers with the perfect theme, the professional photographs, and the 2.5k followers. It's hard not to compare.
Heck, I did when I was nominated for this award and questioned how much of a "blogger" I really am.
and now for my chosen nominees:
Special thanks again to you, Kait.
In a recent post, Therapy talk: the importance of using skills as prevention techniques, I had been yearning to find ways to stay grounded in the classroom when anxiety becomes present.
I completed my first week of my first college summer course, and so far so good! I am now on week 3.
In the same previous post, I asked you all for some crystal knowledge, and which stones are best for grounding. My lovely cousin, Lauren was the first to get back to me, finding hematite a popular choice for grounding purposes.
For now, I have been bringing one of my own stones.
I keep it in my pocket during class. Sometimes I will go an entire class forgetting it's there, but I believe it is comfort to have with me.
It is the fact that you have something of a positive energy in the palm of your hand when you need it most. It reminds me to breathe, it reminds me I am supported, it reminds me there is good in the universe.
I remind myself that I am safe. I remind myself that I am okay, and I remind myself to breathe.
My mom and I have been carrying our worry stones [pic below] in our pockets as well. Yesterday she expressed to me that if I see another one, tell her, because she is afraid she will lose hers. I told her about the crystal I carry with my when I go to class. My mom, like me at one point, knew very little of energy healing. I told her what reiki is, and how crystals work, and how different stones have different healing purposes.
We talked for a while about this in our kitchen, and it made me so happy she was just as interested as I am.
now to where the inspiration for this post came from-
our family reunion..
Every year my Papa's side of the family gets together for a reunion. Growing up, it has always been June. We would celebrate my Papa's birthday, the 7th, and my Great Grandma T's the 16th. Since they both have passed, we have continued the tradition of gathering at my Nana and Papa's house for a pool party/barbecue picnic. My mom's cousins come from CT, MA, VA, MD, and NH.
I never know what to expect since my Papa passed away. What memories will come up for me? Will it be weird seeing someone else at the grill? On the drive to Woodstock I asked my Papa to bring us some sun today. "I don't know how much control you have over the weather, but can you bring us some sun? Some sun so we know you are there." Within 20 minutes after I arrived to the party, I saw the clouds slip away and the sun showed itself- even if it was just for a little while. I smiled. Thank you Papa.
I thought a lot during that drive. Often at family events I walk in with enthusiasm, silliness and make my presence known. Eventually, though, I shut down. I slip away from that energetic side of me and I become overwhelmed without reason to be.
Today wasn't like that though. For once, it felt as though I stepped outside myself. I wasn't trapped in my head, I wasn't an intense observer. And I realize why now. I was a healer.
"Haley come on we have to go."
"Cousin ___ is in her car, she texted 'I'm having an anxiety attack.' "
I jumped. "OO, I'm experienced with that!!"
I ran across the lawn and crossed the street, up to the window of my mom's adorable cousin's car. She looked up at me and wiped tears from her eyes.
"Hello beautiful", I said.
I had been waiting to see my mom's cousin all day. I kept asking when she was coming, if she was still coming. I just adore her.
I ran around to the passenger side and climbed in her car. I've never been in her car before. I haven't seen her since- my Papa's funeral? Has it been that long?
We've bonded many times before. Our personalities just click. She's sweet, silly, warm-hearted, and oh, so huggable. She's also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, and her overall mental health- like me. We haven't talked about our stuff before, but we both had known we could probably relate. And this was my time to go into action and let this precious little lady know how fricken special she is through my own eyes.
She didn't know why it was coming on. And that's the thing with anxiety attacks often you just don't expect them.
There was the internal pressure of "pull yourself together, and smile for the family" and that scared her. She just sat in her car for 20 minutes before entering, and cried.
I put my head on her shoulder and told her I loved her.
My mom exclaimed "OH you're twins with Haley!!"
I laughed and said "YEAH!" assuming she was referring to the anxiety episodes- but nope. Our nose rings. She laughed, and calmed down a bit. Before we walked with her back to the house I asked if she wanted to go for a quick walk before going inside. She agreed. This was our first 1:1 time together.
The 2 of us walked a lap around the neighborhood, just talking. She did a lot of talking, and I did a lot of listening. We talked about how not many people understand anxiety attacks. "You just want someone to understand, but they don't really understand unless they have been through it- but of course, I wouldn't wish this on anyone." She talked about her life growing up, struggles she dealt with, body image, anxiety attacks in college. We talked about therapy, coping techniques, ones that worked, ones that didn't. And we talked about our interests in psychology, sociology, and well, people.
She is in her.. early 40's? and then there I am- but it just didn't matter. I forgot it in that moment because I felt what she was going through, and I knew a walk might just help.
Before you knew it, she was in the house, wiping a few more tears and hugging those so excited to see her. "You're going to be my buddy for the day, ok?" I said. Age just doesn't matter. For me, I have always been an old soul anyway. I just wanted to make sure she was OK, and I wanted to be that person there for her that just "gets it."
I am reflecting now- and I had this caregiver sense in me, and I just focused on her and making sure she was supported, making sure she knew it was okay if she needed a break. My energy remained positive, and hours went by and my light hadn't burned down. I was living. I was out of my own head, I wasn't viewing my life as a movie, and I was living it.
Being a support for another, is rewarding for me as well.
I thought of my Papa, and how he always was the light to our family, and a shoulder to lean on. I don't doubt I have those pieces of him within me.
Relatability is such a tool. And it isn't "oh your life sucks? Yeah one time my life sucked really bad too.." haha. No. I had told our cousin about the Thanksgiving I spent crying and shaking in the upstairs bathroom of my aunt's house, and how I had no idea what brought that on either. After the party, I reflected on that memory again. I remember my mom telling me "you did it." I got through the holiday. It wasn't easy, but I did it. I have since learned to celebrate every tiny victory. And I wanted her to celebrate her own too.
In an article on IHeartIntelligence.com, it is stated that social anxiety is linked to empathy and intelligence.
Anxious beings often feel like they have limited control in the world, but that might just not be true.
Without my anxiety, without my struggles, it would've been an even longer road to discovering my passion, and maybe even, my purpose.
If it is control you seek, know you can use all of your power to be a supportive voice, and listening ear to another.
Usually when I step away from the keyboard for a bit, it's because of a lack of new ideas, too much "real world" to attend to, or I'm just ultimately feeling off.
I guess attending to the "real world" has left me inspired with an idea for this post.
I have always been a lip-biter; someone who pushes through the discomfort. Someone who brushes herself off when she falls down. Some may describe this as being "tough."
I have come to the conclusion that life is a test of our resiliency.
We can spend our days at war with ourselves, but some days it's okay to put down the sword, or stop the fight, to protect ourselves.
And this post is going to explain WHY.
As many know, anxiety is a battle between the rational and irrational.
Sometimes we must CHALLENGE the instincts anxiety brings us.
Last week I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate a birthday. I was looking forward to going, and my mom and I were laughing the entire walk to the restaurant. She was wearing a yellow sweater, and I was wearing yellow converse sneakers with yellow shorts. Walking next to each other- we just laughed.. "Mom, we look like a f***ing lemon." The 2 of us were just losing it. I was loud, bubbly, laughing, and well, me. Once our group arrived, I was slowly beginning to notice how out of touch I was feeling. There were many different conversations going on and I was trying to find my way into them. My anxiety had me interrupting a couple times, making a joke, realizing nobody was listening, and awkwardly sipping from my water glass. That night, the restaurant was busy, more like crazy. Our waitress was overwhelmed, forgot to bring out 3 of our orders including mine. I was patient, I felt badly for her remembering my own waitstaff experience. My discomfort was my fault though. I hadn't eaten anything all day so of course I would be feeling sick by this time of night. I became overwhelmed, too. I had been sitting there for an hour waiting for my appetizer, feeling myself becoming fidgety and rubbing my hands on my thighs. I just heard a lot of chatter from different directions, and I just wanted to remember what quiet sounded like. My mind was racing to keep up. I just continued to smile, feeling my body shut down. My introversion, my social anxiety, my need for food? Maybe all of the above. My aunt smiled at me saying "I think Haley is ready for bed." I just smiled back and nodded. I don't like this part of me becoming visible, but I tried not to beat myself up for it too. It is hard for it not to be visible. My 'very Haley' self is very bright, and when I am quiet- those who know me best become worried. I just hung in there, and when my busy waitress came back I reminded her of my meal and she went running for it. Mistakes happen. I ate my meal so quickly, and tried to pass my mom 'the look' that it was time for us to go. She didn't catch on, she continued chatting away. After dinner, I didn't speak much. The entire walk to the car. I just wanted to recharge. I focused on breathing. I paid attention to the fresh air, and told myself I was ok now. Driving back home, my mom started asking me questions and telling me stories and though part of me wished she'd ask if I was ok, I just told her I would like a quiet car ride. She said okay, but shortly after she began talking again and I jumped "I said I wanted quiet!" "Haley, that's rude!" "I'm sorry I don't want to sound rude, I am just really overwhelmed." In the driveway she reminded me (firmly told me) to say hello to everyone when I went inside so they wouldn't think I was mad at them. I hated this feeling. This overwhelming feeling where you feel like you are about to crawl out of your own skin. I wasn't trying to be rude or moody, this was me keeping it together. I wanted to go right to bed. Upstairs, I couldn't find my phone. I knew I had it jumbled in my covers but I became more anxious and shaky and my mind was racing as I tore my bed apart. I just whined to myself, "my phone. where's my phone. i can't find my phone." as I paced around my room. When I found it, I took a breath and headed for the bathroom. One of my siblings was showering. So I stood outside the door as tears fell down my cheek. My mom did catch on. She gave me a hug. Asked if anything happened. No. Just overwhelmed. "It's okay" she whispered, "I get like that sometimes too." I continued to cry and shake just hearing the water running and waiting for it to turn off. I just needed my toothbrush. I wanted my bed more than anything, and until that bathroom door opened I continued to fight off an anxiety attack.
I share this embarrassing anxiety restaurant story for a good reason.
There is an anxiety instinct; when something is uncomfortable and your body responds to that.
- Me waiting to leave dinner so I could finally sit in my car with peace and quiet.
BUT instead, I hung in there and though I cried when I left, I can say I did it. I pushed through the discomfort.
One more quick example of me challenging anxiety:
In high school I had a 504 plan that supported me during my anxiety attacks, when it was especially difficult for me to do oral presentations. Those who helped create my plan, didn't want to take away presentations entirely from me. I was able to say no if it was too much, but I also had the option to try it if I was doing okay. They didn't limit this because they didn't care about me, or didn't believe how triggering they were for me. INSTEAD it was because they knew it was something that would follow me after high school and taking that task away would not help me cope or overcome that fear; it might make it more difficult.
In my life I have become used to biting my lip, saying "I'm ok" when I am clearly NOT OK. Because of this, sometimes I don't know the difference between the two. I don't know when to take a break, and when to keep pushing.
I have fought many fears in my lifetime. I saw this quote recently about "my life being out of my comfort zone." It's funny, but it feels true. I am resilient, and there are so many good qualities that come with that. Though, I recently took this personality test. My results...
and on the opposite side with much less of a percentage: assertiveness.
Yup that's me.
Should I be laughing though? Is this trying to teach me something? Do I know when to challenge myself (fighting my anxiety) and when to listen to that feeling (be assertive for myself)
We all have had the "oh I shouldn't have said that" or "oh I wish I had said __" moments.
Recently I found myself facing one of those thoughts, but it wasn't just silly anxiety, it was a red flag.
I knew I didn't want the same thing to happen again so I've been thinking deeply about it.
Do I know the difference between typical anxiety and when to stand up for myself? Do I recognize the difference between those 2 feelings?
Yes, yes I do.
Sometimes we get those instincts that are irrational, "mild" or temporary, so sometimes it's best if we are lip-biters and just push through the discomfort life may bring.
But we also have that "gut feeling", the instinct, for a REASON. It's a much different feeling, and we all have felt it and can probably tell the difference. It is when something isn't right, you don't trust it, or you feel a sense of danger. You see the red flags, and that is the time to LISTEN to what your gut is telling you and get out of a situation.
I've been processing a lot. I felt stupid. I realized that I had become accustomed to sitting in situations that made me feel like I was melting, knowing I can not do a thing about them. In return, I am training myself to do this without realizing I am.
I had to scream these words to myself:
"THIS TOO SHALL PASS" HAS ITS LIMITS.
Every experience, good or bad is there to teach you something. Or, you can learn something from any experience.
I learned that I can accept myself as an anxious being, but I can sure as hell work on being more assertive. I have to. I am in the right direction. I know how to put my hands on my hip and tell someone if something is not okay, I know how to stand up for my needs and my rights. And recently, I didn't. I crumbled like a cookie.
It is important to check in with yourself. "Is this feeling/thought something I should challenge or listen to?"
Do not allow yourself to become hurt. That is not something you should become "accustomed to."
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.